Shin Bet Restricts Gag Orders, Detainee ‘Disappearances’

02:29 Dec 9 2011 West Bank

by Richard Silverstein

When I first began writing this blog, a question that always nagged at me was: why? Why write a blog? Who does it impact? What does it change? Now, these questions don’t bother me as much. But if I ever needed an answer to them I’d have it now, based on an Israeli security source, who notes that the new Shin Bet chief, Yoram Cohen, has ended (according to his/her claim) the agency’s use of gag orders and “disappearances” of detainees. The new director appears to have learned a lesson his predecessor, Yuval Diskin, did not: that when they engage in such draconian conduct, they only prove the arguments of their detractors, who say they are among the chief violators of civil liberties in Israeli society.

In other words, the oversight, as meager as it may be, by this blog and many others in Israel of the actions of the security apparatus has an impact. According to my source (and only time will tell if s/he is right), there will be no more secret arrests of Anat Kamm or Ameer Makhoul or many others whose detentions I’ve exposed here. Of course, it would even better were these individuals not arrested at all and instead given medals. But that, alas, is too much to hope for. We have to be content with the fact that the system has changed incrementally for the good.

Here is an example from the Hebrew press of the way the new system works. A security arrest is made and announced the same day in the press. Those arrested are named in the article.

Of course, an agency as set in its ways as Shabak is liable to take a long time to truly change its colors and there may be backsliding to the old ways. For example and contrary to what the source claims, I’ve noticed cases in which arrestees still either aren’t named or their names are placed under gag order. Recent examples, are the mosque burning in Tuba Zangariyye and the Peace Now attacks. In both examples, suspects were not identified and I named them in both cases. It’s possible that some of these cases involved the police rather than Shabak and the former may follow different rules. It’s possible that Shabak is more willing to name Palestinian detainees and less willing to expose Jewish ones. At any rate, we’ll have to observe for ourselves (and you too will, dear readers) whether they’ve changed their spots. If they have, we should give credit. If they haven’t, we will be here to note that as well.
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